With four young children, the days of dining out in peace and staring romantically at my husband across a candlelit table are no more than a distant memory. To be honest I don’t think such things are really even a distant memory, just wishful thinking, as between running a business and raising children I can’t actually recall a candlelit dinner. Although, I can say with utmost certainty that if we go out with the children and see a lit candle we see no opportunity for romance just a fire hazard.

Indeed when you start dining out with children your whole outlook on what constitutes a good dining venue changes.  There was a time when I would judge a dining establishment on very different merits than I do today. When dining with children it isn’t about Michelin stars, it becomes about going out somewhere that has a nice environment, with good food at a fair price and with child friendly service. When you have a cranky, hungry child it become essential that food service doesn’t take to long. Even table width becomes a major consideration – you try sitting a family of six, colouring books and drinks around a table where there is barely enough space to house four dinner plates, by the time the main meal arrives it chaos to just accommodate the food on the table let alone eat it.

Dining out with children is all about how accommodating the restaurant is and its certainly not about fancy garnishes and  tiny servings or sixteen different taster courses. Simplicity, affordability and good quality are all key considerations when I dine out with my four children.  I dislike majority of children’s menu’s as they rarely offer anything that resembles good food and as I don’t take my children out to feed them inferior food to that which they get at home I always end up ordering for them off the main menu.  I have often wondered why children’ menu’s are frequently so limited, offering burgers, pizza and lots of processed things coated in breadcrumbs. How is a child supposed to develop a pallet or learn an appreciation of food if they dine on turkey dinosaurs?

This week I found myself in Newport and so I thought I’d try the Bistrot Pierre.  When venturing into any chain it is difficult to know what to expect, however, I was pleased to find that my welcome was from generic and that my children were handed activity books with so much more than a cartoon character to colour in, there were plenty of thing to keep them occupied and we were seated at a table with more than ample room.

The service was well-polished, swift and individual.  Though a chain, I did not feel like a number and there was a warmth to the service and especially in relation to the children. I ordered the Tarte aux legumes, which was describd as being a, ‘Warm tartlet of butternut squash, spinach, Le Saint Mont des Alpes cheese and caramelised onion with a chive beurre blanc’. I’ll be perfectly honest I wasn’t too optimistic when I ordered this dish. As a vegetarian I frequently end up with menu choices that involve tartlets and they are invariably a little bit sad and lacking in everything except for salad garnish. However,  for once I was pleasantly surprised, my Tarte aux Legumes arrived and was more than adequate in portion size and it had crisp pastry and a hearty, flavorsome filling. It was wonderful to have a main course that I enjoyed when dining out and to not have to order the cheeseboard in order to quell hunger pangs.

The vegetarian options on the childrens menu included macaroni cheese and a cheese omelet, which whilst not the most exciting I much better than a processed cheese and tomato pizza.

As the children tucked into honey cake with ice cream, I concluded that Bistrot Pierre was actually rather good and much better than I expected.  Delicious food, offering excellent service, and providing a fantastic dining atmosphere for those with children. Well done to this chain and not a turkey dinosaur in sight.